PARIS – The dream of changing transportation to electric power has inspired vehicle startups from Tesla Motors Inc. in California to Mia Electric GmbH of Essen, Germany, which will build its small electrified cars in Cerizay, France.

While Tesla has made it to the world stage with its sports car, the French-German Mia has made it to La Rochelle, France, with its oddball 3-seater.

La Rochelle is a town by the sea made famous for a siege directed by Cardinal Richelieu during a war between the French royal forces of Louis XIII and the Huguenots of La Rochelle in 1627-1628.

Today, the city is known for its electric-vehicle-sharing program, giving EVs pride of place for more than a decade. The program, started in 1999, currently is running with 25 electric Citroen Saxos and 25 Peugeot 106s. Additionally, people travel on electric bicycles and in electric boats.

Moreover, “It is the only city in France that requires deliveries to the center city to be made by electric vehicles,” says Jacques Mollard, who has directed and implemented EV development in La Rochelle since 1984.

Next year, La Rochelle will renew its “Yelomobile” car-sharing fleet with at least 20 Citroen C-Zeros and 20 Mias. The order means the arrival of a new brand in the world of cars in a small but high-profile way.

“We rejoice to see our vehicle join one of the pioneer fleets of electric mobility in France,” says Jean-Philippe Brun, in charge of Mia sales in France.

Mia designer Murat Guenak, who formerly served as chief vehicle designer for PSA Peugeot Citroen and the Volkswagen Group, has said he started with a clean sheet of paper in 2007 to create a small urban car that featured zero emissions.

The Mia’s driver’s seat is centered, flanked by two passenger seats in the second row, accessed by sliding doors on each side. The 113-ins. (287-cm) vehicle weighs just 1,819 lbs. (825 kg) with its driver, and the 8kWh battery is said to give it a range of 62 miles (100 km). Recharging takes 2.5 hours.

The Citroen C-Zeros are to be delivered in April and the Mias in July, says spokesman Maxime Renaudin. La Rochelle has the right to buy 10 more vehicles from one company or the other to complete its fleet.

In addition, Mollard says at a conference here, the fleet will grow from 50 to 70 vehicles next year, while the number of recharging stations expands from seven to 13.

While La Rochelle’s car-sharing will be overwhelmed in size by the 210 EVs planned for a program in Nice next spring, called Auto Bleue, or the 3,000 EVs anticipated in the Paris Autolib EV-sharing program next autumn, the city already is at work.

Yelomobile has 450 subscribers, including 70 who have been with the program since its startup. In 2009, the EVs were used for 23,000 trips, an average of about one per week per subscriber.

Auto-sharing, the equivalent of short-term rentals, is the hope of small auto makers such as Mia, whose ideas are far from mass production. In addition to La Rochelle, Mia is in the running to be added to the Auto Bleue fleet in Nice, along with the electric Peugeot iOn and Citroen Berlingo utility vehicle.

Mia Electric is the successor to Heuliez SA, the French carrosserie company that transformed 6,500 EVs for PSA starting in the late 1990s, marking the first time France thought of going electric.

Heuliez nearly folded at one point, but has survived to bring the Mia to life with the help of the regional government, which owns 30% of the French factory in partnership with Mia Electric.

The factory presently employs 150 workers, with another 90 expected to be hired when production begins in June. A pharmaceutical entrepreneur, Edwin Kohl, put together the German company.